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PNG Supreme Court to rule on bid to stay election fee amendments

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court bench will make its ruling this Friday on whether it will grant interim orders to stop parliament from further debating the proposed amendments to increase election nomination fees and election petition security fees.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill argues that the Supreme Court does not have the power to intervene in Parliament’s deliberations on the proposed increases in poll fees.

The proposed bills before Parliament are K10, 000 (US$3,149) from K1000 ( US$314) nomination fee and the cost of lodging an election petition of K20, 000 (US$6,299) from K5000 (US$1,574).

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey, representing O’Neill, told the Supreme Court in Waigani that the proposed laws were before parliament which meant that the parliamentary process was privileged and protected.

Twivey said the Supreme Court was not allowed to interfere in the Parliamentary process due to Section 115 of the Constitution on Parliamentary privileges.

Twivey said a court, in trying to ascertain the constitutionality of a law, was a separate power compared with a court trying to interfere with the lawmaking process.

She said there was no remedy for the court to grant an interim relief sought by the Ombudsman Commission.

Twivey said the proper procedure would be for the court to give an expedited hearing in the Ombudsman Commission’s reference.

In the reference, the commission is seeking the court’s clarification on whether the proposed amendments are constitutional.

Pending the determination of that reference, the commission applied for an interim relief to stop deliberations by Parliament on the proposed amendments.

Lawyer Dr Vergil Narokobi, representing the Ombudsman Commission, said it had satisfied the five pre-conditions required for the court to issue an interim relief.

According to Narokobi, the pre-conditions are the nature of the orders sought by the applicant, seriousness of the questions in the reference, issue of prejudice, balance of convenience and preservation of the status quo.

Narokobi said Section 19 (1) of the Constitution gave the Supreme Court the power to declare a proposed law unconstitutional.

Section 19 (1) of the Constitution on Special References to the Supreme Court in part states that the Supreme Court shall, on application by an authority, give its opinion on any question relating to the interpretation or application of any provision of a Constitutional law, including any question on the validity of a law or proposed law.

Narokobi said many citizens would not be able to exercise their right to stand for election due to the increase in the nomination fees.

The court comprising judges Sir Salamo Injia, Sir Gibbs Salika and Justice Colin Makail will give its decision on Friday.

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